Thursday, January 17, 2013

US House Energy & Commerce Committee Opposes NRC's Requirement of Filtered Vents in BWRs in the US, Says #Fukushima Accident Cannot Happen in the US

Republican members of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee has sent an open letter dated January 15, 2013 and addressed to Chairwoman Allison MacFarlane of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, demanding that NRC answer their concern that NRC's attempt to further regulate the nuclear industry after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident may be stifling and unnecessary for the health of the industry.

They seem to be saying, correctly I suppose, the US is not Japan.

From their letter (PDF; emphasis is mine):

(Page 2)

"In particular, concerns were raised about the agency's departure from rigorous technical and cost-benefit analysis. Yet as the Commission readies itself to take additional actions concerning "Tier One" recommendations (post-Fukushima items of highest priority), it appears that the NRC may be discarding the disciplined processes that for years have ensured that reactor safety is rooted in performance-based regulation, appropriately recognizing each nuclear plant is different. It also appears that the Commission is considering some issues on an independent basis without considering how those issues impact other matters currently pending before the Commission and previous NRC actions that are already being implemented by the industry. This suggests the Commission views the cumulative impact[s] of its actions as merely a cursory scheduling challenge, and ignores the serious risk that piecemeal consideration of related issues may yield unintended consequences."

Right below this passage, the letter quotes NRC Commissioner William Magwood and the official report of the Fukushima accident investigation commission set up by the Japanese National Diet (out of context, in my opinion) that say the accident was "made uniquely in Japan".

And what exactly is their beef that isn't justifiable with the traditional "cost-benefit analysis"?

Filtered vents.

(Page 4)

"With respect to these [safety] enhancements, we have particular concern about the potential requirement to install "filtered vents" for certain boiling water reactors which we understand to be significant, capital-intensive structures. As instructed by the Commission, the NRC staff has proposed four potential options but urged the Commission to choose "Option 3." Under this option, the Commission would issue an order requiring the installation of fintered vents rather than pursuing a performance-based process."

It is apparently of no concern to these Representatives (or should I say representatives of the US nuclear industry) that it was the dry vents from the reactors at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, not so much the explosions, that contaminated much of Tohoku and Kanto.

Instead, their concern is over cost, and adequacy of protection, as the letter quote yet another NRC Commissioner insisting on a "fully developed justification", and says:

We strongly agree and observe that the "fully developed justification" Commissioner Ostendorff referenced remains absent. To move forward on a poorly justified, precedent-setting proposal like Option 3 would be a disturbing erosion of the NRC's historically disciplined standard of adequate protection.

Their "performance-based process" seems to mean that as long as there is no accident there is no need for "costly" filtered vents. Their cost calculation doesn't seem to include the public and social cost in case of an accident, because an accident is not supposed to happen.

How's that thinking different from Japan's before the Fukushima accident?

Later in the letter, the argument is made that the closure of a nuclear power plant would result in power shortages and a huge loss of local employment.

It is the same old argument that has been made everywhere in Japan. So, what's different in the US?


Anonymous said...

Now we see why Gregory Jaczko was forced out of the NRC he would have "bullied" everyone into following the NRC's long standing rules. When it comes to any reactor safety rules that would cost money they must be "fully developed justification". BUT when it comes the reactors themselves "fully developed justification" goes right out the window.

Vyse Legendaire said...

This time its different...

right, guys?

Anonymous said...

The damn republicans strike again. Americas biggest enemy is not middle eastern terrorism, it is republican fascism that will destroy us. I'm no fan of the dems but at least they attempt to operate the government like proffesional adults.

Anonymous said...

For them, it's not a matter of determining the facts. It's a matter of finding bullshit reasons and excuses to support their interests. That's why they will always be full of shit.

Anonymous said...

The jobs argument is ridiculous. Surely lots of construction jobs would be CREATED by a sudden requirement to build water/zeolite beds or whatever other type of high-throughput filter.

Anonymous said...

It's also the damn Democrats pushing new nuclear reactors. Obama wants mini nuke plants so that even the rural poor can benefit from clean energy. Whatever. He's as space alien as Japan's Hatoyama is.

Anonymous said...

>The jobs argument is ridiculous

While I agree the job argument is ridiculous the construction jobs wouldn't benefit the industry's bottom line as far as they are concerned this is an expensive solution to a problem that doesn't exist. If the Price Anderson act was repealed tomorrow suddenly the cost-benefit analysis would shift but as long as the industry can't be held responsible for its "mistakes" it will always be too expensive to be safe.

The industry wants to hide behind the "made uniquely in Japan" meme just like they hid behind the "Chernobyl was unique" meme. In the industry's opinion every nuclear accident is as "unique" as a snowflake therefore critics are always comparing apples to oranges. The industry even wants to redefine the INES so it can go to "11" because in its current form Fukushima is a 7 and so is Chernobyl and that isn't unique enough for them. When critics try to point out it doesn't matter how you spill the milk the mess is the same the industry is quick to point out how unique the situation is without defining exactly why it is unique.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, the vents are required but the filters are not... what is the reasoning here? are the vents supposed to be used only for very small releases into the environment because large releases are not supposed to heppen?

It seems to me that when nuclear reactors go out of control the extent of the consequences is unpredictable because it depends on so many factors (availability of batteries, emergency generators, cooling water, personnel comes to mind) and the time frame is extremely short (hours more than days, even less for Chernobyl)

Anonymous said...

This is just lobbyists turning Congressmen into crack whores by throwing gobs of money at them.

My guess is, the NRC didn't even make the recommendation until they knew Congress wouldn't approve it.

Public safety is just a nuisance when it comes to making money.

Maybe future generations will understand what a farce nuclear power generation is with its deadly radionuclide byproduct fallout...If the next generation live that long.

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Anonymous said...

All but 3 of these Republicans that signed the letter directly received considerable amounts of nuclear power company "campaign donations". The public has little ability to do anything about these politicians. The GOP could care less if they stacked the committee with paid stooges of the industry it oversees. In their individual districts all they have to do is babble about Jesus, terrorists and wave a flag and enough idiots will vote for them to keep them in office. There is no way to inform enough people that their congressperson is paid off the media won't cover it. Even if they did you have to get enough people to comprehend that it is a problem.

m a x l i said...

I don't understand what the entire article is about. What explosion/accident/contamination in Japan are they talking about? That's not possible. Japan is not the Soviet Union.

Love the expression "health of the industry", by the way. How could anyone dare to complain about his hair falling out, becoming all pustules outside, tumours inside, when the health of the industry is at stake.

JAnonymous said...

Filtered vents are the key element that prevented a Chernobyl/Fukushima in the U.K. a long time ago.

Those filters were built upon the insistance of the project manager (check out, even though everyone else disagreed about them and they looked awful.

Late 50s Cumbria would be like today's Fukushima otherwise. But this was probably made in UK, right ?

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